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Author Topic: MS word question and plot question
dee_boncci
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Recently my mother board expired after a brief illness (which is the reason I've been scarce around here and the flash challenges). Now I have a new computer with a newer version of MS Word (2000 and something).

Does anyone know how to disable "smart quotes"? I hate the things and can't figure out how to get the default back to strait quotes.

Also, I'm looking for a bit of advice from novel writers. I've recently started a new novel and found myself in a familiar situation. I have what I feel is a good concept for the beginning and a good concept for the ending, but a gulf in the middle I'm having trouble bridging. I tried working through it with the "snowflake" approach, but it seemed to only to emphasize the gap. I'm at the point of simply starting to write and hope inspiration strikes along the way. Is this a mistake?


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wbriggs
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Tools, Autocorrect Options, Autoformat tab. In my version of Word, "smart" quotes is the 3rd box.

About writing the novel: I am not a published novelist, but I have written one (and plan to market), and I am sure that I would have written myself into a corner if I'd just started writing. I wrote a scene-by-scene outline. I wish I'd gotten OSC's comments when I started, rather than after I'd finished! His opinion, which makes sense: it's so difficult to edit a story that went wrong that you almost may as well not try. If you must change it, throw it out and start again at th epoint where it went wrong.


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dee_boncci
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Thanks, Will

That reinforces my previous experience that when you proceed without a plan you can get irrevocably stuck along the way. Unfortunately, Stephen King's "fossil" approach always hovers at the back of my mind, tempting me to indulge too soon.


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BuffySquirrel
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There are two basic approaches to writing a novel. One is the planned outlined approach. The other is the organic 'make it up as you go along' approach.

Now the former may well have demonstrable merits over the latter, but the most important thing is to choose the way that works for you. If you find outlining blocks you, write. If you find just writing blocks you, outline.

Bill Martell (he's a screenwriter, but there's huge overlap with novels) recommends this approach:

Get your protagonist up the tree
Throw rocks at him
More rocks
Get him down from the tree

Conflict should escalate throughout the novel. Everything the protag does to put things right should make them go more wrong.

Outline vs organic--choose the one that enables you to write.


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Paul-girtbooks
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I've written five novels and, other than some notes (most of which are taken during the course of the actual writing), I pretty much go for the make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach.

I will say, though, that you should be very careful when it comes to outlines: if you do too extensive an outline you're in danger of ripping out all the sense of fun that you should be getting from actually writing the novel. It's great to discover a book, not only as a reader, but as a writer.

That said, I did, sort of, outline my fifth novel, which I wrote earlier this year. Mainly the reason for that was because it was a big step for me, in the sense that it had been many years since I had written my fourth novel, and I wasn't sure if I could get back into writing another one.

So what I did was mind-map.

Are you familiar with mind-mapping? If not, google it. Basically, though, it breaks down like this: take a sheet of paper and write, say, the title of your book in the center. Draw no more than seven lines - 'branches' - coming off of this central 'trunk'. On these branches you make a short notation, such as the theme or intent of the story, major plotline and a branch each for the main characters. From each of these seven branches have no more than seven subsidiary branches. On these branches - or 'twigs' if you like - you make a further notation, enchancing where necessary the points you raised on the main branches.

It's really hard to describe mind-mapping without it (as above) sounding like gobbledygook. However, what it does is gives you a handle on your story and - unlike an outline which is laid out very boringly, line after line of print, on several sheets of paper - it's all on one sheet (the sheet can be as big as you want - A2 even) which gives you the advantage of being able to look at it all in one go. Plus, you can - and should! - assign different colors to the branches. So not only have you got your novel nailed down on one sheet of paper, but already it looks interesting, which gets you excited - and you haven't even started writing yet!

The other major advantage of mind-mapping (unlike an outline which is, by its very nature, laid out in rigid chronological order) is that it all starts from one spot in the middle, then branches out. A mind-map is there to give you an overview of your characters and plot and intentions,
without setting everything in stone and thus running the danger to sucking all the life out of the story before you've even started writing it. Because it's all there - and on one sheet of paper! - it gives you the confidence that you can do it, because it feels as if you already have.

For instance, although the mind-map gave me the confidence to begin my fifth novel, it didn't drain the life out of it. Indeed, I found the characters developing in subtle, but important ways I hadn't explored in the mind-map. I saw a major theme emerging which changed entirely my preception of what I thought was the story's intent - so much so that I rethought the very title of the book and realized I had to change it, because it was all wrong. If I had done an outline and stuck to it rigidly I might not have had that revelation, as writing from an outline can be a bit like being a clerk taking dictation: it's a job, a struggle, a pain, ain't no fun at all, etc. If you feel this way whilst writing up your novel then STOP because, believe me, this mood will permeate its way into your writing.

Like I said, you'd have to see a mind-map to know what I'm talking about (and they can be used for ANYTHING: shopping lists, the points you wish to cover in an upcoming meeting, job interview preparation and so on). Head to your nearest bookstore; they're bound to have several books on mind-mapping, probably filed in the self-help section. There you'll be able to flick through the books and actually see dozens of examples of mind-maps.

[This message has been edited by Paul-girtbooks (edited September 25, 2005).]


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mikemunsil
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Mind mapping is nice. Below is some info I've copied over from the Resources section of Liberty Hall:

Mind Mapping

quote:
Mind mapping (or concept mapping) involves writing down a central idea and thinking up new and related ideas which radiate out from the centre. By focussing on key ideas written down in your own words, and then looking for branches out and connections between the ideas, you are mapping knowledge in a manner which will help you understand and remember new information.

The 'official' Mind Mapping info: http://www.mind-map.com/EN/mindmaps/how_to.html

A more 'user-friendly- explanation: http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/mindmap/howto.html#top

Example - Character Sketch (using an old version of MindManager software)

http://www.munsil.net/images/WillieGruff.gif

Example - Essay Notes from http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/mindmap/index.html

http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/mindmap/images/sampleemm.gif

Mindmapping Freeware

Freemind [color=blue](I have tried this and it works ok)[/color]
http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Cmap
http://cmap.coginst.uwf.edu/download/cmapChoice.mgi

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited September 25, 2005).]


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Survivor
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Why do you feel there's a gulf in the middle?
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rcorporon
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I don't like to outline, as I find it boxes me in, but some people like it.

Isaac Asimov said that he always just "made it up as he went along." But you're not Asimov.

Wow... what a useless post . Perhaps I should have outlined it first :P.

Ronnie


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thexmedic
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I'm writing my 2nd novel (btw, I am very unpublished). The first one, while my wife liked it, is HIDEOUSLY episodic, and the reason why was because I had no plan. I just bashed it out chapter by chapter. And while each chapter usually had something going on, by the end it read more like 30 separate adventures that one long one.

In my new novel I've planned it out in just less than excruciating detail and I used Voglers "Writer's Journey." Personally I cannot sing that book's praises high enough. It resolved all the issues I had understanding 3 Act Structure, and provided a framework loose enough to be adaptable to almost any idea. Now, I can understand some people finding it too restrictive, but it really provided the framework I needed to work out my plot. So I throw that out as a recommendation - browse the book in your local bookstore before you decide to buy though to see if it's for you.

As for having planned out my novel - I'd be a liar if I didn't say this one isn't going slower than the last. Some of the sense of discovery is certainly gone. But that was there when I was plotting it out. But, to quote the Matrix (not a good habit), there's a difference between knowing the path and walking it. If each plot point I have mapped out is a node, I still have to find a way between the two.

Basically, planning out my novel within an established framework has really helped my writing. The themes and goals of each scene are much clearer in my mind. Sometimes it makes sitting down to write harder, but I think its worth it.


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apeiron
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I wish I could offer advice (both for you and myself!), but I've never gotten past this on a novel. I tend to go for the "just start writing" technique, which gets me into the novel just fine... until I realize where it will end. Then, because I know what happens (and most importantly, WHY), I lose interest. It's so frustrating!!

I have a MS Word question too actually, for anyone who knows. Somehow, I accidently clicked on something, or an unfortunate series of somethings, and now my scroll bar has disappeared. I have no idea how or how to get it back. Meanwhile, I have to drag my cursor down the text to move through it. Very frustrating as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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lehollis
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quote:
"I have a MS Word question too actually, for anyone who knows. Somehow, I accidently clicked on something, or an unfortunate series of somethings, and now my scroll bar has disappeared. I have no idea how or how to get it back. Meanwhile, I have to drag my cursor down the text to move through it. Very frustrating as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated"

Click on the Tools menu, then click on Options. On the View tab look for Horizontal Scroll Bar and Vertical Scroll Bar in the Show section. I hope that helps.


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Keeley
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First, my condolences.

Second, it sounds like you need to let your story "simmer" for a while longer before you try writing it or even outlining. Even when I wrote novels with no outline whatsoever, I usually had a good idea of beginning, middle and end. Sometimes the scenes were so clear in my head I felt like I was transcribing; other times it was more of a "she does this, he does that" kind of summary.

I would recommend visualizing your beginning as if you're watching a movie in your head. What is the conflict? How will your characters respond once the conflict happens? What will they do after that initial reaction? What will their reaction cause? How will they react to those events?

Keep asking yourself questions like this and you should have a middle pretty soon.

I used the Snowflake myself and I like it quite a bit, but I had a pretty strong idea of what my story was going to be before I started... the basics anyway.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited September 26, 2005).]


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Kickle
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I'm going to second Thexmedic's recomendation of Vogler's book. I used it to do the first draft of my novel and it helped me.
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Jaina
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I ran into a similar problem with my novel--I knew where it started, where it stopped, and that was it. The middle was a really big blank vacuum, and I had no idea how to fill it.

So I started playing with things. I finally decided to kill off a character, which gave my MC a new job, which gave her more power in the government, which made her more of a threat, which made her a target for assassination, which eventually led to the ending. There was a lot more in the middle, of course, but just by killing that one guy led to a chain of events that led nicely to the end.

Of course, the chain had some false leads and some wacky stuff that had to be cut, and dozens of false beginnings, but it got me where I needed to go.

I'm not saying that you have to kill a character to make your plot move forward, but start playing with different things you can do to make your charcter's situation even worse, and what they would do to try to make it better.


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pixydust
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With my first novel I just started to write. Bad idea--I got 45,000wds out before I realized I'd lost myself somewhere 20,000wds back. That novel now sleeps in cyberspace.

My second novel: I did some prelim notes and major character studies before I started. I sketched out the few scenes I could visualize--this gave me a better idea of rhythm and started to get my "juices" flowing. But still later I had a lot of rewriting to do.

My third novel I'm almost finished with and I used the same method as above but in more detail. This novel will not have as many rewrites--but mainly because I knew it better then I did the previous novel before I began. The "three acts" are very important to know before you start (I only had act one for my second novel before beginning).

My fourth novel I'm writing in conjunction with the third. I'm doing the snowflake method with this one--like Keeley. It's great so far and I can see how the structure will help me along the way. I can still sketch out scenes and play around, but it keeps me focused and helps me to see the novel from an aerial view (plus, it helps you with the proposal that you'll have to write later anyway).

I'm torn between the two ideas: structure vs. freestyle. I think, however, as a new novelist my work is better served in a more structured birthing process. Maybe later in my career--as I someday hope to have--I can just get an idea and flesh it out as I go. For now I'll stick to building the ms from the bones out then trim away the fat when I'm done.

my 2...maybe 4 cents...


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Silver3
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Every one of us has a different approach when it comes to writing novels.
I have written two, and one is in the revision stages.
The first one I had this detailed map of where my characters were going, but in the end they departed so much from the map that I threw it away.
The second one I had a problem similar to yours, which was a good beginning, or at least an idea of where to begin, a clear picture of where I wanted my characters to end, but nothing in between.
I didn't rush in. I planned (somewhat). I drew a map, thought about my characters, about the way they acted and reflected, the way they would interact. Then I found myself a middle point: at the halfway point in my novel, I knew my characters would be here, would have had such and such experiences that would help them prepare for the end.
The rest was getting them from the beginning to the middle point, and plotting backwards from the end to that point. It worked pretty well, except I had to do a second draft to correct continuity errors. But at least I didn't feel constrained by a precise outline.

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apeiron
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lehollis- Thank you!!
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Sariel
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Re: plotting

I bought this book several years ago:

http://www.acblack.com/Catalogue/details.asp?sku=1421797&dept_id=8

and along OSC's "How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" it has been one of the most useful plotting tools I've ever used. There's even an abbreviated version of the book online here:

http://www.weekendnovelist.com/antagonist.htm

The book details, and walks you through writing a novel on the weekends over the period of a year. But the techniques and tools can be applied at a more accelerated pace if you like, which is what I did.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I use MS Word, when I have to, but I don't use it often enough to be able to help anyone else with it.

Someone has asked for help on another writers forum and I'm hoping someone here knows the answer.

quote:
I am having a problem setting margins in Word.

I went to file, page set up, margins - then put in 1" for top, bottom, right, left. Only, nothing happens.

I tried to do it manually - I end up with 1 1/4" on the right and 3/4" on the left.

I tried Help but it was of no help - telling me only to try the page setup.



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franc li
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What about the little triangles on the ruler bar? I don't exactly know how they work, I just mess with them until things look better. Though with the total page shift like that, I wonder if there is some problem between the computer & the printer.
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wbriggs
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I don't know, but . . . he might try highlighting the entire document before setting the margins.
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Elan
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To set page margins in WORD, open a blank document and go into:
FILE>Page Set Up
Set your margins for the widths you want. Save.

To permanently change your margin set ups, open FILE>Page Set Up with no document at all open. Save. That should change your defaults.

If you are unable to customize your margins through either of these methods, you probably have something else set wacky. Which leads us to those little triangles on the ruler bar... those are tab indicators. It's possible to have the indents set to override the page margin defaults. You need to highlight the text you wish to affect.

I hope that helped a little.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks, Elan.

May I quote your instructions?


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Elan
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You may. Unless they don't work. In that case, you can quote Survivor.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks, Elan.


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